Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraq to exchange food for Iranian gas, seeks U.S. approval: government officials

Reuters reports:

Iraq has agreed with Iran to exchange Iraqi food items for Iranian gas and energy supplies, two Iraqi government officials said on Wednesday.

Baghdad is now seeking U.S. approval to allow it to import Iranian gas which is used in its power stations, and needs more time to find an alternative source, they said. The sources are a senior government official and a member of Iraq’s ministerial energy committee.

“The American deadline of 45 days to stop importing Iranian gas is not enough at all for Iraq to find an alternative source,” the first official said.

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Violence targets medical workers, patients preventing care in Iraq

Rudaw reports:

Violence towards health workers and patients in Iraq is preventing safe access to and the impartial delivery of health care, according to a study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the local International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Because health care professionals by the very nature of their job deal with situations of life and death, situations where emotions run high, they are very frequently exposed to adverse reaction by patients, their families, the communities and other people that accompany them to the health facilities, including weapon bearers”, stated Katharina Ritz, the head of ICRC in Iraq.

The Iraqi health ministry and ICRC launched a 10-day public awareness campaign entitled 'Health Care in Danger' in Baghdad on Monday.

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Iran, feeling sanctions bite, looks for outlet in Iraq

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa write for AP:

At this year’s Baghdad International Fair, Iranian businessmen displayed thick, colorful Persian rugs to impressed onlookers while others showcased the latest in Iranian manufacturing in power generators and industrial tools.

For Iranian companies, the annual Baghdad International Fair is a major event, as exporters in carpets, foodstuffs and heavy equipment look to score sales in Iraq’s import-dependent economy.

But this year’s edition, running this week, is an even bigger deal than usual: Iran, already feeling the bite of newly re-imposed unilateral U.S. sanctions, is turning to its neighbor to soak up its exports in agriculture, manufacturing and energy.

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Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes

AFP reports:

When Iraq's female cycling team snatched bronze and silver medals at a landmark pan-Arab race, it was thanks to athletes from the autonomous Kurdish region.

The country's toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region.

And the three medals won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at the tournament in Algeria were seen as proof of this sporting prowess in a region that has governed itself since 1991.

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Anger is simmering among Iraq’s Kurdish youth

Mariya Petkova writes for Al Jazeera:

It has been more than a month since Iraq's Kurdish region held its parliamentary election, and a new Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is yet to be announced. Currently, intense negotiations are taking place between the two main political players in the region - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) - dispelling speculations that their decades-old power-sharing agreement had come to an end after the severe political fallout from last year's independence referendum.

But as the two parties are busy evening out their differences and haggling over ministerial posts, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm about the new KDP-PUK government, especially among the youth.

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Iraq rail service back on track after war with Islamic State

John Davison writes for Reuters:

At Baghdad’s grand but half-empty railway station, a single train is sputtering to life. It is the newly revived daily service to Falluja, a dusty town to the west once infamous as a Sunni insurgent stronghold.

The driver and conductor assure that the tracks running through Anbar province are now clear of mines planted by Islamic State and of collapsed bridges the group blew up when it marauded through western and northern Iraq in 2014.

After a four-year hiatus, hundreds of rail passengers now travel the 30 miles (50 km) between Baghdad and Falluja in just over an hour. By car, the journey can take several.

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Blacksmith market roars back to life in old Mosul

AP reports:

The furnaces are hot and this workshop in old Mosul is roaring back to life.

The blacksmith and carpenters' market is a hive of activity after being abandoned during the Islamic State (ISIS) group occupation.

Blacksmiths and carpenters have complained about the lack of government support in rebuilding their shops.

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Shaken by Car Bomb, Mosul Fears Return of IS Nightmares

AFP reports:

A deadly car bomb in Iraq's Mosul, the first since the city was recaptured from jihadists, has left residents shaken and terrified that past nightmares are returning to haunt them.

The blast late Thursday hit the popular Abu Layla restaurant in Mosul, the northern city that for three years served as the Islamic State group's Iraq headquarters.

When residents awoke to the scene of destruction on Friday morning, they feared their bloody past with IS was not yet behind them.

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Northern Iraq May Be Free, but the South Is Seething

Ahmed Twaij writes for Foreign Policy:

Recent violent protests in the southern Iraqi city of Basra have brought to light years of suffering by Iraqis in what is known as the economic capital of Iraq due to its vast oil reserves and deep-sea port access connecting the country to the international market. Basra, a predominantly Shiite city, also has a significant minority population, including black Iraqis and Christians. It is Iraq’s second-largest city and has developed a reputation for fostering some of Iraq’s greatest artists. During the first Gulf War, the Iraqi military used Basra as a route for the Kuwait invasion; ironically, a decade later, U.S.-led forces used it as a path toward Baghdad during the 2003 invasion.

The current crisis in Basra is not a recent development. It stems from years of inattention from both the international community and the Iraqi government. Increased civil unrest in the region has been exacerbated by the government’s focus on defeating the Islamic State in northern Iraq and unequal distribution of resources, making the current situation both expected and preventable.

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Mosul residents left to rebuild destroyed homes

Sebastian Castelier and Azhar Al-Rubaie write for Al-Jazeera:

During the nine-month battle to retake Iraq's Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, 54,000 houses were destroyed in and around the city.

Since July last year, when victory was declared in Mosul, the city has witnessed numerous reconstruction projects run by government organisations and NGOs.

The vast majority of these projects are taking place in the old city of Mosul, focussing mostly on cleaning the streets, helping rebuild schools and basic infrastructures, such as water supply and electricity network.

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